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Photo Credit: © Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Post-Trade Deadline, who are the Canucks going to protect, expose, and lose in the 2021 Expansion Draft?

Before the Vancouver Canucks get back to game-action — for better or for worse, in sickness or in health — we’re taking one last opportunity to look ahead at one of many notable events to come in the offseason: the 2021 Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft.

Now that the Trade Deadline has come to pass, and given that the Entry Draft has little impact on expansion, we’ve got a better idea today of how the Expansion Draft will shake out for the Canucks than ever before.

The situation could still change between now and then, but if it doesn’t, here’s how it’s going to go down.

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A brief refresher on the rules

Even though the Seattle Kraken will select their team under the exact same set of rules as the Vegas Golden Knights — aside from a special exemption for the Knights themselves — there’s still mass confusion in the hockey world about what exactly those rules are.

So, before we begin, a brief refresher, with a focus on how said rules will affect the Canucks:

Exemptions: Any player who has skated in zero, one, or two “professional” (NHL/AHL) seasons is exempt from selection and does not need to be protected. Thus, someone like Vasily Podkolzin (zero seasons), Jett Woo (one), or Michael DiPietro (two, if he actually suits up this year) cannot be selected by Seattle.

Any player with a full no-movement clause must be protected, unless they waive their NMC.

Any player with a career-threatening injury that has kept them out of the previous 41 games may be declared exempt at the club’s discretion. By the end of this season, Micheal Ferland would qualify here.

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Games played not a factor unless player was under-20: If CanucksArmy had a nickel for every time someone suggested that Kole Lind hasn’t played enough games to be eligible for selection, we wouldn’t need to run ads.

Alas, games played are only a factor when it comes to games played while under the age of 20. If you play a single game at the NHL or AHL level at the age of 20 or higher, that counts as a season. If you’re 18 or 19, however, you have to play 11 games before it counts as a season.*

*For the truncated 2021 season, that threshold has been reduced to eight games.

Thus, because Quinn Hughes’ five game cameo in 2018/19 came while he was still a teenager, that didn’t count as a season, and therefore he’s still on his second professional season and not eligible for selection.

Brogan Rafferty, on the other hand, was over 20 when he played his two games at the tail-end of 2018/19 season, so that counts as a season and therefore Rafferty is eligible for selection.

Minimum exposure requirements: Most of the confusion regarding a games played threshold comes from a misunderstanding of the minimum exposure requirements.

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Each team is required to expose a certain amount of players at each position that meet a certain threshold of experience, so as to theoretically guarantee some value being made available to Seattle. Those minimum exposure requirements, which were also altered by the shortened schedule, are as follows:

  • One defenseman who is a) under contract in 2021-22 and b) played in at least 27 NHL games the prior season or played in at least 54 NHL games in the prior two seasons.
  • Two forwards who are a) under contract in 2021-22 and b) played at least 27 NHL games the prior season or played in at least 54 NHL games in the prior two seasons.
  • One goalie who is under contract in 2021-22 or will be a restricted free agent at the end of his current contract immediately prior to 2021-22. If a team elects to make a restricted free agent goalie available to meet this requirement, that goalie must have received his qualifying offer prior to the submission of the team’s protected list.

For each of these positions, we’ll note below who the Canucks can expose to ensure they meet the requirements.

Forwards (Seven protection slots available)

Without a doubt, the toughest decisions that the Canucks have to make will come at the forward position.

Must-protects

Elias Pettersson: We haven’t seen Pettersson in a while, but he’s not going anywhere.

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Brock Boeser: As one of two valid candidates for Vancouver’s 2021 MVP, Boeser has firmly taken himself off the trade market, if he was ever really there in the first place. Either way, he wasn’t going to be exposed.

Bo Horvat: Again, it’s an easy decision to protect the team’s captain and probable fourth-best forward.

JT Miller: If there’s one member of this “fab four” that could conceivably be traded, it’s still probably Miller. But that’s highly unlikely, and it certainly doesn’t mean he’ll be made available to Seattle.

Will-protects

Tanner Pearson: Though Pearson’s controversial contract extension did not come with any formal expansion protection, the word on the street is that he and Benning have a handshake deal that Pearson will not be exposed. Say what you will about Benning, but he’s not the type to welch on an agreement like that. Should Benning be replaced as GM, there’s a chance that Pearson gets exposed — but that would be a skeevy move.

Whether or not Pearson should be protected, particularly over some of the players listed below, is another question entirely, but irrelevant to this discussion.

Other candidates worthy of protection

Tyler Motte: The team’s best PKer and highest-energy forward, and with some untapped offensive potential, to boot, if his playoff production is to be believed. Motte may not seem like the sort of player that is typically a priority to protect, but his game contains elements that the Canucks are already short on.

Zack MacEwen: While his upside may be limited, MacEwen still brings an increasingly rare skillset to the table. There just aren’t that many players left who can effectively skate a regular shift and take on all comers with the gloves off, and MacEwen is one of them. He’s definitely one the Canucks would like to keep around.

Kole Lind: Recently rated the Canucks’ third-best prospect by our own Chris Faber, Lind has been excelling as the Utica Comets’ top center in 2021. There’s a very good chance he makes his Vancouver debut for the year is out, and most are expecting him to be there full-time in 2021/22 — with some even penciling him in as the future 3C. He simply has too much potential to expose.

Jonah Gadjovich: Here we arrive at the toughest call. With 11 goals in 13 games for the Comets and a tough-as-nails disposition, no player in the organization has seen their stock rise faster in 2021 than Gadjovich. One might think that makes him an easy selection for Seattle if exposed, but Gadjovich does lose his waiver exemption as of next year, so the Kraken would have to be pretty sure of him making their roster to take him. The Canucks could gamble that Seattle passes on account of that, and keep Gadjovich exposed, but that could easily backfire.

Who gets protected?

It’s a coin-flip, really, but at this point we predict that Pettersson, Boeser, Horvat, Miller, Pearson, Lind, and Motte are protected.

Who gets exposed?

The contracted forwards left available for selection would be the aforementioned MacEwen and Gadjovich, along with Jake Virtanen, Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, Loui Eriksson, and Matthew Highmore. Pending RFAs Lukas Jasek, Jayce Hawryluk, Justin Bailey, and Petrus Palmu are also eligible to be selected whether they are qualified or not. Pending UFAs Brandon Sutter, Jimmy Vesey, Travis Boyd, Tyler Graovac, and Sven Baertschi are also eligible, though Seattle selecting one of them would be highly unusual.

Minimum exposure met?

MacEwen, Highmore, Virtanen, Roussel, Eriksson, and Beagle all meet the threshold.

Defence (Three protection slots available)

The Canucks have the opposite problem on defence than they do on offence: not enough players worth protecting. Ideally, they’ll be able to swing a deal to acquire one from a team with too many defenders to protect between now and July, but if not…

Must-protects

Nate Schmidt: Reviews are mixed on Schmidt’s debut season with the Canucks, but most are willing to cut him plenty of slack. Regardless, he’s clearly the team’s most valuable defenceman eligible for selection by Seattle, and that’s exactly why he won’t be made available.

Will-protects

Tyler Myers: Here comes the controversy. There are those who would be overjoyed to see the Kraken select Myers, and there are those who would be willing to pay a princely sum to ensure it happened. But if Benning is still in charge of the team come July — or, really, if Francesco Aquilini, who personally wined-and-dined Myers as a UFA, still owns the team — there’s little chance they actually part with him. Like it or not, Myers is almost certainly going to be protected.

Other candidates worthy of protection

Olli Juolevi: Though Juolevi has struggled to crack the lineup in 2021, he’s shown well whenever he does manage to hit the ice. To give up on the developmental investment and lingering potential represented by Juolevi at this point would be disappointing, and that’s reason enough to protect him. There also isn’t really anyone else worthy of consideration.

A re-signed UFA: There have been rumblings that the Canucks might extend either Alex Edler or Travis Hamonic before they hit UFA status and then protect them, but that would be truly heinous asset management. There is no reason not to wait to re-sign them, especially given each of their likelihood of wanting to return to Vancouver.

Who gets protected?

This one should be easy: it’s Schmidt, Myers, and Juolevi.

Who gets exposed?

The newly acquired Madison Bowey, along with pending RFA Guillaume Brisebois. Pending UFAs Edler, Hamonic, Brogan Rafferty, Jalen Chatfield, Josh Teves, and Ashton Sautner are also technically eligible for selection.

Minimum exposure met?

Bowey meets the threshold, which is probably why he was acquired. Otherwise, the Canucks would have had to re-sign one of Edler and Hamonic and expose them, or trade for someone else who qualifies.

Goaltending (One protection slot available)

Thankfully, it’s a simple process from here on out.

Must-protects

Thatcher Demko: Protecting Demko was a slam-dunk before he signed that five-year contract extension. Now it’s whatever is one step higher than a slam-dunk…an alley-oop, perhaps?

Other candidates worthy of protection

None: Michael DiPietro and Arturs Silovs are fine prospects, but neither is eligible for selection — nor would either be protected ahead of Demko.

Who gets protected?

Again, it’s all Demko.

Who gets exposed?

Braden Holtby gets exposed without a doubt.

Minimum exposure met?

Yes, as Holtby is signed through the 2021/22 season.

Who does the Seattle Kraken select?

For our money, it has to come down to whichever two of those four forwards worthy of protection that end up exposed anyway.

In our simulated protection racket, that came down to Zack MacEwen and Jonah Gadjovich.

Both play a similar role, but MacEwen has proven capable of handling minutes. Gadjovich has not, and requires waivers to be sent down to the farm.

Therefore, we predict that the Seattle Kraken will select MacEwen.

Many in the fanbase will be sad to see him go, but none more so than long-time MacEwen supporter/expert Cory Hergott.

Sorry, Cory. We’re not saying that we want this to happen, just that we think it will.